Blown trees and debris left by Yutu on Saipan,
Photo courtesy of Uly Torres-Sabuco.
Super Typhoon Yutu made a devastating landfall in the Northern Marianas on Thursday morning with sustained winds of 165-175 mph with gusts up to over 200mph, displacing dozens of families and leaving a still undetermined cost of damage on Saipan and Tinian, including power and water infrastructure.
“No words to describe the destruction Super Typhoon Yutu had on the Marianas. Public information can only go so far to prepare a community, but still, our beautiful islands of Saipan and Tinian were devastated beyond imagination by 200 mph winds,” CNMI Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said in a statement posted on Facebook.
There were no reported typhoon-related casualties as of this writing.
Bautista said communication lines on Saipan are intermittent at best. Power poles, transformers and electric wires are downed. Roads are filled with fallen trees and debris. Cars stacked on top of cars.
“But the worst is seeing our friends and families coming out of destroyed homes to a different island,” Bautista said. “But in times like these, we are reminded of our resiliency as an island community. As Go. Ralph DLG Torres said, ‘Our community, our neighbors, our friends, and our families are ready to rebuild stronger and faster than any typhoon.’”
Classified as Category 5 typhoon, Yutu moved past the Saipan-Tinian Channel, and residents, living in the southern part of Saipan and northern region of Tinian felt the intensity of the storm.The National Weather Service said Yutu was the strongest storm to hit the U.S.
“The winds and rain were strong, and they have tested our spirits. Already, we know friends and family who have experienced the worst of these conditions. My heart goes out to all who call the CNMI home. But what we suffer through together, we will overcome together,” Gov. Torres said in a statement.
He also asked the people of the Northern Marianas to please remain safe as winds continue to remain strong. “Do not put yourself at risk… emergency responders were asked to remain temporarily in place during the height of storm. But the moment this subsides, they will be rushing to serve our people,” the governor said.
Saipan resident Glen Hunter described Yutu as an "insane amount of natural force. Like nothing I've ever seen in my life."
Rep. Ed Propst posted on his Facebook page said: "Our stormboards flew away and our windows broke. Our house floor is flooded and our bedroom door ripped off its hinges and it is raining and blowing into our living room so we all relocated into one bedroom. God be with everyone."
Another Saipan resident, Cinta Kaipat, said she “endured hours of feeling the house and its foundation shake like I have never seen nor felt before. I have felt my body shaking as though my bed were possessed, heard the rain and wind howling like a mad wolf outside the house, and the sound of that freight train passing right atop my roof.”
At the Joint Information Center in San Jose village on Tinian, municipal mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas said Tinian had no power and water. “Our power plant has been compromised and the distribution system is completely destroyed,” San Nicolas said.
The municipal operations center is currently relying on a generator set up for typhoon emergency.
As of late morning the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Fire were conducting rescue operations on Tinian for residents stranded in their locations.
“Approximately 30 individuals have been rescued and the efforts will continue throughout the day,” San Nicolas said. At least 70 individuals are being housed at the Tinian gym, which is being used as a shelter. The Tinian municipal government is awaiting clearance from the Public School System to use the Tinian High School cafeteria as an alternative shelter.
San Nicolas appealed to Tinian residents for calm and patience.
Although Yutu continued to steadily move away from the Marianas, a Typhoon Watch remains in effect for the islands of Tinian and Saipan. Downed power poles as well as fallen debris are blocking roadways. In addition, the islands of Tinian and Saipan are continuing to experience damaging winds making it dangerous for motorists to be on public roadways.
The CNMI Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management is heeding the cooperation of residents to remain indoors until the “All Clear” has been issued to allow first responders to clear roadways of debris. “Coordination amongst our State agencies and Federal partners have already begun. Weather conditions remain hazardous. We are making sure we are not posing potential threat to our first responders. Our focus is on deploying resources to clear our roadways so first responders can begin assisting residents who have lost their homes and for those who need transport to seek medical attention or transportation to the nearest shelter. We just went through one of the worst storms I’ve seen in all my experience in emergency management. HSEM really needs the cooperation of the general public on this one,” said HSEM Special Assistant Gerald J. Deleon Guerrero.